Mind the beep: The UK’s most stressful car horns

The Fiat Punto's car horn has the beep that causes most stress to motorists, according to new findings out today from AXA.

11 February 2010

Posted in Product

by Miranda Bellord (see media contact)

In a unique experiment (1), its horn had the most profound effect on people's heart rate, skin conductance and brain activity - key stress indicators.

The findings of the experiment kicks off a wider 'Respect on the Road' campaign that will highlight the effect of disrespectful driving behaviours and encourage greater courtesy on British roads. The majority of drivers (79%) feel there is a lack of respect on the roads today and nearly half (48%) view a horn honked in anger as the 2nd most disrespectful thing another driver could do to them (2).Travel writer Charley Boorman has been brought on board as the campaign's ambassador and to urge people to air their views on the state of behaviour on today's roads at www.axarespectontheroad.com.

For the stress experiment, neuroscience specialists Mindlab connected participants to bio-metric monitoring equipment and recorded signals from their brains to show demands made on memory and to determine the relative distraction of horns on the top 20 best-selling cars (3). Following close behind the Fiat Punto on the stressful car horn scale was the Vauxhall Astra in second place and the Nissan Extra in third.

The Top 10 most stressful car horns:

Car Manufacturer

Mental Stress (4)


Fiat Punto



Vauxhall Astra



Nissan Extra



Ford Focus



Seat Ibiza



BMW 320



Ford Fiesta



Ford Galaxy



Peugeot 307





Supporting research (5) of 2,000 UK adults has found that almost half (41%) of drivers feel stressed when others use their horn and a further 54% think people use their car horns inappropriately. The majority (59%) think this is because other drivers are too impatient and nearly half (48%) think it is due to a lack of respect. 43% of drivers say they have been a victim of road rage - the most common of these being a honk of the horn or hand gesture - and half of drivers have admitted to using their car horn in an aggressive manner while driving.

There is also a lack of knowledge about when the car horn should be used on British roads. More than two thirds (69%) of people do not know it is illegal to use the horn when the car is stationary, and almost a third (31%) wrongly thought they could use their horn in built up areas during certain hours of the night.

Experienced driver Charley Boorman, comments: "I've driven on roads all over the world and have seen some of the best and worst driving you can imagine. In Britain we may be known for politeness but one thing that drives me mad, is inconsiderate motorists using their horn whenever they feel like it. As the AXA campaign is trying to show; the horn is there for one reason - safety - not to make people's commutes more stressful than they need to be."

Tina Shortle, marketing director at AXA Insurance, commented: "We hope this study will highlight the stress car horns can bring, and make people think twice about using their car horn aggressively. Pressing horns out of frustration is just one of the ways people show a lack of respect on the road. By highlighting the discourteous way in which people act when driving, our ongoing campaign aims to bring respect back onto the roads and improve driving experience. We're asking them to think about why they behave that way in their car, when they wouldn't act like that on foot."

In a bid to encourage respect on the road, AXA is asking people to vote for their favourite out of five 'least stressful' car horn sounds at www.axarespectontheroad.com. And to make sure they use their car horns in the most respectful and law-abiding way when out on the road.

Least stressful car horns:

Car Manufacturer

Mental Stress


Vauxhall Zafira



Mazda RX8



Renault Megane



Skoda Octavia



Mini Cooper